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My Favorite pigeon

By Steve Joneli

I think every fancier has at one time has had a favorite bird.  That special pigeon with some inner quality that catches your heart.  May be he's the champion racer in your loft.  Or maybe he's the tamest bird, the one that always fly's to greet you, landing on your shoulder.  Studly is my favorite pigeon.
When I started flying I fixed up the end eight feet of a storage building that is on my property.  It made a nice 8X8 foot loft.  I had a large window on one side and built some nest boxes on the other side.  Nothing special, just a nice comfortable home for some birds.  Now all I needed was some pigeon.  
I had been told about the Washington State Racing Pigeon Show and Auction that was coming up so I made plans to drive to Puyallup to look for some birds.  This show is held on Thanksgiving weekend every year along with the NPA fancy bird show.  I spent the day looking at all the fancy show pigeons and racing homers and making new friends with people I met.  I ended up coming home with four pair of racing homers and some assorted show birds.  The show birds later moved to other homes as my interest developed in the racers.  One of the cocks I bought was a magnificent looking blue bar.  I was told by the gentleman selling him he had come from Montana from a flyer that had quit flying and moved to warmer climates.  I was told he was a long distance bird that used to fly from the Cascade Mountains in Wash home to Bozeman, Mont.  I don't know why but for some reason this one cock really caught my eye.  He had a way about him, such a proud looking bird.
When I got them home and turned them loose in their new loft it was termoil for a couple of days.  But when the dust had cleared my Montana cock had chosen a top nest box and had picked out the best looking hen in the loft.  Since he had the top nest box and the best looking hen I naturally assumed he was the toughest cock, king of the loft, top Stud.  That's how he got his name "Studly".
In his first year breeding because of a late start he only raised two young.  One young bird , flew really well in her first race but was lost in her second race, big smash.  But his other daughter 701, won several diplomas and was neck and neck for champion bird right up until the last race.  At the Wash. State show this year we entered Studly in the "Eye Sign" class and he took a third.  So I think there's definitely some quality there.  But that's not what  makes him so special.
There is nothing in life Studly loves more that being a dad.  When he's sitting eggs and especially very young babies he just won't give up the nest.  Many a time we have seen him all spread out on his nest with his hen trying to squeeze in next to him.  One leg in the nest bowl and one leg out.  And then there was the time we saw her actually sitting right on top of him.  Because he just wouldn't give up his babies. His babies are always the fattest in the loft.  Most babies squeak because they're hungry.  Studly's babies squeak because there over filled and are begging for mercy.  Last year I wanted to re do the nest boxes in my breeding loft.  I had 7 babies still in the nests all about 20 days old.  I chose this time to separate the pairs and put the hens in the "Hen Loft".  I locked the cocks out in the aviary and boxed up the babies.  I removed the old nest boxes and built twelve nice new nest boxes with doweled fronts.  I put the babies on the floor thinking their dads would come down and feed them and then let in the cocks. The new nest boxes were a different arrangement than before so the cocks had to go through they're pecking order choosing their new boxes.  I returned to the loft a few hours to see how everyone was doing and boy what a surprise.  Studly hadn't even picked out a box.  Instead choosing to be on the floor feeding all seven babies.  When one of the babies natural dads came down wanting to feed his young Studly would run him off.  He just wasn't letting anyone near his newly adopted family.  Later after it was dark I again went to the loft to check things out and what another surprise.  Instead of taking his top box, Studly was on the floor in a corner with all seven babies snuggled in around him.  He was just sitting there with his wings spread out covering his new family all proud, smiling from ear to ear.  
Studly has become one of my most valuable cocks.  And my favorite.  He is such a gentleman with his hens, and so laid back and easy going.  I like to think he enjoys it when I stroke his belly as he's standing there, but he's probably just being polite and putting up with me.  And anytime if you need to move a baby just give it to Studly and it's immediately adopted.  
Studly is eight years old now but still fit as a fiddle and going strong.  His young this year look top notch and are flying super.  He's defiantly a one in a million bird in my heart and will always be "My Favorite Pigeon"               

Every once in a while every fancier gets that special bird in their loft.  That one in a million.  And in this respect Red Rose Lofts are no exception.  
AU 2000 NCI 826 was just another young bird on the team.  Just another hopeful.  Until our young bird team was attacked by Hawks on a training toss.  Out of 96 birds only 17 made it home on the day.  The following days birds kept returning until we had 48 in the loft.  Several with minor wounds.  4 days later we found a weak bundle of feathers collapsed in the grass outside the loft. 826 had made it home, despite 2 broken legs and gashes in his chest.
He was weak and tired but very happy to be home.  He drank heartily and when Linda held food for him ate from her hand.  We slit open a milkshake straw and splinted both legs.  Then after dressing his chest wounds, we took one of Steve's socks, cut a small hole in the toe and slid it around him to keep him immobilized.  Then needing a good place to keep pressure off his legs we hung him from our banana rack.  The poor boy looked so sad we just had to get a picture.  How humiliating, hanging from a banana rack with your humans taking pictures of you. His picture was circulated over the internet and he became known as "the Banana Rack Bird" He forgave us.  
Linda took him down several times a day for food and water and after he begin to perk up and started complaining about Steve's old sock we put him back in the loft with his friends.  We kept food and water near so he wouldn't have to go far.
Amazingly after only a few days he took to the air loft flying with all his buddies.  The splints didn't seam to hinder him much in the air but oh my, you should have seen his landings.  After 10 days we removed his splints and he begin to walk and land like nothing had happened to him.  He then resumed road training with the rest of the team.  
July 22nd was our first young bird race and we had a guest staying with us.  Dani Beaumont, a young flyer that many of you know from her Internet writings had come to spend the weekend with us.  After hearing 826s story she said any bird that determined needed a name and christened him "Braveheart".  We didn't win that race but "Braveheart" was in our first drop.  Over the course of the season "Braveheart" never won a race.  Third was his best.  But he scored in the top 10% every race and went on to be 8th Champion Bird in the club.  He was one of out most consistent flyers and now has been promoted to our old bird team where he has clamed a top nest box.
Many flyers would have giving up on a bird with such extensive injuries but we felt any bird that is that determined to make it home is a winner.  "Braveheart" is out of a "Chala" Leen Boer cock and a "Mc Laughlin" Van Reet hen.  
Steve & Linda Joneli,  Red Rose Lofts 

1950-1970, the pre "Merckx" era of the fabulous Janssen Brothers, was where it all began. 
Names like "Bange of '51", "Winterjongen", "Lichte of '50", "Blauwe of 48", "Oude Witoger of 65", and the "Geeloger of '67", were just a few of the many greats the Janssen Brothers raced and bred to form the most successful line of racing pigeons in the world.
These awesome racers not only helped the Janssen Brothers fill their pockets on race day, but the potent blood that ran through their veins, would boost almost any loft of that era to absolute greatness.
The ability to produce a high percentage of outstanding racers has been a trademark of the Janssen pigeon since then.
Over and over again the stories go on about how this man, or that, was able to obtain one or two eggs from the brothers of Arendonk, and form a loft of unparalleled greatness that would bring the competition to their knees for some of their birds.
Gust Hofkens, Joseph De Klak, Herman Brothers of Germany, Albert Van de Flaes, and the list goes on, were some of the fanciers who made the pilgrimage to the brothers of Arendonk and changed history in pigeon racing forever.
Everyone knows what the Janssen pigeons did after the "Oude Merckx", and his fabulous sons made their mark in racing and breeding; but where did they come from? Did the Brothers just get lucky breeding birds from several lofts to make their elite pigeons?
No, not in the least. The old line Janssens were there, tearing up the best of their day. They won more than their share of races, and with the unmatched ability to breed pigeons that not only kept the quality of pigeons in their loft very high, they could breed winners and breeders for other lofts as well.
1. The "Vernazza" Janssens of California. 
The early Janssens of the US made a tremendous impact almost immediately after arriving in America. The early sixties in California was one of these places.
Henry "Hank" Vernazza, of the Martinez Club, had bought several imports from Piet deWeerd of the new Janssen Strain. His record for over a decade was unbelievable. Soon thereafter other fanciers were dying for some of these new Vernazza pigeons. Jim Calia was one of those fanciers.
Jim obtained as many of Hank Vernazza's pigeons as he could and started his own strain of very successful pigeons known today throughout the US, and much of the World. The Vernazza pigeons are responsible for the foundation birds of more lofts in the US than any other line of pigeon we know of. To this day many, futurity birds and combine winners, are bred from descendents of these pigeons.
The most famous, and surely one of the best producing hens the world of pigeon racing has ever seen, is the "Red Hen". She was one of the original birds Hank purchased from Van de Flaes, through DeWeerd. The "Red Hen" was not an "original Janssen", from the brothers of Arendonk, as her breeder was Albert Van de Flaes of Ravels, Belgium. She was a daughter of Van de Flaes "Red Fox", a National winner of many races. He, being bred from the "Bange of '51" stock of Janssens of Arendonk.
After learning what an impact the "Red Hen" was having in America, Van de Flaes sent a cousin to mate with her. This cousin's name was the "Poot" cock", a black check that would turn California upside down with his youngsters from the "Red Hen".
It is said that the "Red Hen" is the mother or grandmother to more than 200 winners. This is simply unheard of in the racing pigeon sport.
Through experiments, it was determined that the "Red Hen" had the ability to produce outstanding racers for as much as 6 or 7 generations. Hank was not going to leave this incredible ability stand idle. He mixed the blood of this wonder hen into every pigeon he raised, and like wise, every Vernazza strain pigeon alive today still has the blood of that same "Red Hen" running through their veins.
2. The "Mexico" Janssens of Maurice Jemal 
Maurice Jemal was the type of fancier who could spot a good pigeon when he saw one. The day Piet de Weerd brought by those Janssen pigeons, Jemal's life changed! He bought as many as he could afford, and ordered more for the next year; he "had never seen a finer pigeon". 
Some were original Arendonk Janssens while some came from Van de Flaes.
After some experimenting, Jemal started a system of breeding virtually unmatched in the US. (Even today most fanciers don't understand his system correctly.) Maurice Jemal took the competition by storm, winning more races than anyone before that time.
Breeding was another nightmare for his competitors. Jemal's 'inbred pigeons' would breed racers like no one had ever seen in Texas!  Over and over again he had the top pigeons.
It seemed impossible to beat Jemal, so they joined him and bought his pigeons. After a while, if you didn't have "Mexico" Janssens in your loft, you didn't have a prayer to ever win a race in Texas. 
Several fanciers of that time told me they were the best. Trouble is no one kept up the breeding system Jemal invented, and those early birds were soon bred out of the bloodline.
One fancier told me they were so good, you could tell what kind of a pigeon it would be right in the nest. The blue ones were the racers, and the red ones were the breeders, it was that simple.
There are a few of the old birds with most of this bloodline still intact, but the ones who's got them, won't get rid of them!
3. The "Durkins Janssens" of the Northeast US. 
Out of the Northeast came another group of early Janssens that we came to know as the Durkins.  One of the men who flew and bred these fabulous birds was Harold Durkins, he and Russ Burns raced very successfully with them.  Unkown to many fanciers, these birds not imported by Durkins himself.  Through Piet De Weerd, John Spuria and Herb Brazzo imported the Janssens, and from these birds Harold was able to obtain this fabulous bloodline.  Not unlike the "Vernazza's" and the "Mexico's", they were an immediate success.   
Racing and breeding racers, the new Janssen strain was proving it's worth in every loft.  No one noticed this more than Russ Burns, Russ capitalized on the racing ability of these new sensations like no one else.  His awards and records stand to this day, as a mark to work for, 36 Registered AU Champions!  
Harold Durkins realized the quality of the Janssen pigeon, and bred numerous birds that have founded many lofts also, and after some consulting with Henry Vernazza, they swapped birds into each other's lofts.  This is the sign of two men who knew quality, and knew how to keep such quality birds breeding quality.  Many fanciers can use a strain of pigeons to breed and race, but few can keep the strain intact, and continue to breed quality pigeons years after they were introduced.   We have to thank these men, for keeping the "Old Line Janssens" in such a pure state, so we can enjoy the abilities they are known for to this day.
Now for a little recap, the Old Line Janssens are responsible for .., well they are responsible for the Vernazza's, the Mexico's, the Durkins, the Merckx, the DeKlaks, the Vos's, the Van de Faes, the Hortogs, the 969's, the Calia's, the Russ Burns, "019's", the Continental Class's, the Zazueta's, the Lumachi's.. and the list could go on and on!
Gerald Hebert

Take an area the size of a soccer pitch  proper football that is, onto this area put 17 lofts or cabins as they are known locally, throw into the equation teams of hardy well cared for pigeons, some of the the families kept going back some 50 years, add to this a bunch of lads and lasses all with iron clad wills to win and there you have the recipe for English pigeon flying at it's best.
I decided to pen this diatribe after reading Mr.Rowlands articles on flying down in Florida on Unit 10, close proximity flying, just like on the English Pens or allotments as they are sometimes called.
Why do flyers have their lofts on pens, well in Bacup situated in the Rossendale Valley, Lancashire, which is North West England,27 miles north east from the great metropolis of Manchester , not many people have a garden big enough to support a loft. So they rent the space for their cabin.  Many of these allotments and pens can be found around the former mining areas of England, Scotland and Wales, it was considered expedient in the early part of the century for the mine owners to give their employees a piece of land where they could have some sort of recreational activity in the fresh air after working a hard day or night at the coal face.  Of course not all lofts, cabins, crees, coops (different area, different name) are on pens, I was fortunate enough to have a loft in my backyard about 1/4 of a mile from the Pens, but only had a mere 11 yards overfly on a 348 mile race. 
To say the competition is tough on these pens is an understatement, just like Unit 10, but there the similarity ends.  99.99% of these areas do not have electricity or running water, so electronic timing is totally out of the question.  Not only do you have to be a good handler but you also have to posses a high degree of manual dexterity, with maybe only 2yards separating you from the next flyer, if you fumble putting your rubber (Countermark) in the clock you've blown it. In the "good old days" when only the rich man had a clock, the other flyers had to run with the race rubber to bell it in the rich man's clock, usually if he hadn't timed in, his door would be locked and you would have to wait to bell you bird in until he had his first bird, what a pity if yours was your pooler.  There is still an RPRA ruling which allows for time to reach the central clock, if my memory serves me correctly it is 6 minutes per mile on foot and 3 minutes by bicycle. 
Now things have improved and most flyers are using T3, STB or Benzing clocks but some  guys still rely on the Toulet wind ups, the one I used was 72 years old.!!!!!!!!. I don't think ET will ever become standard in England, it would cost a small fortune to run services to the pens and many of the lads and lasses just could not afford it.  In my phone conversations with these guys I get the feeling that ET would take a lot of the fun out of the sport for them, their philosophy being, if I send  birds to races then I owe it to the birds to be at the loft to see him/her arrive safely and say well done lad/lass.
Training is also a joint effort,with gas being the price it is in England , approx 6 bucks a gallon,flyers take turns in taking other members birds on training tosses also they have the benefit of a trainer who calls twice a week to the Rosemount to collect the birds.
Like Unit 10, the ladies play a very big part in racing and the pigeon scene as a whole. It is not unusual to see a lady wielding a mean scraper, manning the marking table on shipping nights or even timing in, as a matter of fact, in one Midweek race last year every bird timed in was the work of the lady of the loft and in several Mr and Mrs partnerships the Mrs is the flyer.  The partnership of Carter and Dunn comprises 12 year old Charlotte and Grandpa Ernest and woe betide grandpa if he transgresses Charlottes strict regimen. One very smart pigeon gal!
The highlight of the old birds races is what is known as "The Brook" in other words flying from France with 88 miles of open water for the birds to cross.The Brook is better known as the English channel or as the Frenchies call it La Manche.The races start at approx 348 miles and move down to Niort which is approx.525 miles. Now that is when the pens really come alight.  When a channel bird returns and circles the pens, all handlers are on pins and issuing their usual call in signals and it is not unknown for a flyer to express is disgust by throwing water bottles and cussing when the birds traps into another loft.  When these races are held over perhaps until Monday the retired members "mind" the workers pens and will sit all day with a pack of sandwiches and a thermos waiting for birds, and is usually as excited timing in for someone else as he would be timing his own bird in.  It is a credit to these lads and lasses who fly from the pens, that when ace Brook Flyer, Gordon Roscoe passed away suddenly in June of 2000, a group effort ensured that his birds were flown for the rest of the season to his honor and memory.
 The basketing station and center for all pigeon activities for these flyers is the Rosemount Working Men's club which is conveniently situated 20 yards from the pens and always serves a good pint of beer.The Rosie as it is known is home to several pigeon clubs, Bacup and District Flying Club, Stacksteads Flying club who are both Saturday  clubs and The Valley Flying Club who basket Tuesday evenings for short Wednesday evening races  The National flying Club, The North West Classic Club and The Lancashire and Yorkshire 4 Bird Championship Club also use the Rosie for Basketing and their clock station.
  Saturday lunchtimes always sees the bar quite full but as soon as the birds are due, everyone will decamp pint in hand to sit out by their lofts.  The club has the usual elected officials and the most important being "The Slave" who's job it is to run over to the Rosemount bar to fill empty beer glasses on long races or very hot days (about once every 10 years -if they are lucky)
I have already mentioned the fact that there is no electricity or running water to 99.99% of these pens, so whilst you guys are basking in the Florida winter sunshine, spare a thought for the Tommy Procters, Steve Brewsters and Jimmy Chrishams of this world who at times have to trudge through snow early mornings  before going to work for the day, to break the water on the drinkers and feed their birds, helped only by candles or a Tilley lamp. Of course the fresh water has to be carried there also.  This journey of love is repeated in the evening dark after work to clean out and feed the birds. 
Do I paint a black picture, not in the least, whilst the competition is severe, the conditions taxing, the camaraderie is second to none. Many a book could be written about the after knock off "debates"over a few beers and the excuses fancier employ for not flying well, the more he drinks the wilder the excuses become, <quote> next door had her laundry hanging out so they wouldn't come down.  <quote> I dropped my rubber through a gap in the floor and couldn't find it. <quote> I had my red shirt on instead of my blue so they sat on he roof. <quote> that ginger tom was prowling around and frightened the birds, it goes on and on. 
The gang usually meet for a Sunday lunchtime pint or three throughout the year and many a dispute or argument breaks out, usually over channel races, when the alcohol level rises, these are usually resolved by delving into the inside pockets and pulling out the Boddy and Ridewoods loft Book, these are the only records kept by the pens flyers, computer pigeon management programs are something they believe only exist on Star Trek.  After many such a session, another duly elected Club Official has to step in and take some miscreant home and make sure he traps in without his "hen"knowing that he has had one pint too many.
The Presentation afternoon usually follows the All Card Winners shows, that is, all birds who win a card (similar to the US Ribbons) are invited back with their birds to compete for the Best in Shows.  Several Shows are run on Sunday lunchtimes and this provides may a flyer with a watertight excuse to his hen why he should go down to the Club on a freezing cold Sunday afternoon.
My lasting memory of flying in Bacup is the last race of 1998.  96 birds were sent and  96 birds came back as one huge flock, the wind was in the right direction so they passed over my loft, my 13 warriors peeling off, but boy oh boy when they hit the pens, it was like something from a Keystone cops Movie, every one made so much noise , whistling, shouting, rattling feed cans, running up and down the verandahs calling their birds in, the poor little devils circled for a good ten minutes before braving the furor and scurrying through the traps, needless to say I did very well that evening.  Of course a flyer will always remember for the rest of his'/her life their first ever win. Mine came in my fourth  race, beating the field by 20 minutes over a 107 mile course.  The bird being a starting gift from 14 year old Warren Leyland.  I can still see his mealey tail going in through the trap to this day.
At the end of the day, there is a huge bond between the guys and gals from the pens and Unit 10, although their circumstances and situations are poles apart, they are joined together, as bother and sister by the love of their birds and this  wonderful sport of pigeon racing
Dear Reader..
I have had a few heart breaking experiences. 
The one that sticks out in my mind was......
I had a white racing pigeon that I called Tippler Tail. He was a gorgeous cock bird that was pure white except for the tips of his tail feathers that were black. He was so pretty to watch fly. He also had Boots, (feathers on his feet). He was one of the first birds I bred out of Hermans that a nearby flyer gave us to start with, back in 1989, when my father first started out in pigeons, and I was the record keeper, scraper, and just helper, because I knew nothing about racing pigeons, and he had a partner. The mother was a blue bar, and father was white with one blue feather in his tail. I had the Tippler Tail on the race teamn for four years. Never won a race, but was a consistent bird, and won pools with him. He flew all the races from the 150-500.  Well, in 1993, he was shipped to a 400 mile race, and didnt return on the day. It was not like him. He felt good, and ready for the distance. So we thought, maybe he was tired, but he'll be home the next morning, he's been there and further before. The next day passed, a week passed, a month passsed, and still noTippler Tail. He was one of my favorite birds, and missed him a lot. Everyday, the trip to the loft, was disappointing. Then, about 7 weeks later, as I walked to the back to the flying loft, I can see something white on the landing board. From a distance it looked like a little bird. so I never even thought it was him. As I came up closer, and looked at this sad, fluffed up little bird, I realized it was HIM! Half the bird I had shipped 7 weeks ago, so I reached up and picked him off the landing board, he didnt even try and move. As I looked at him closely, he had a tuft of feathers sticking up from behind his neck. When I looked closer, with the feathers sticking up, there was also a lump of skin. From the way it looked, we can only guess that a hawk had grabbed it by the neck (or another animal), and as he pulled away from it, the skin on his neck was torn and pulled up towards his head. By the time he returned home, he had grown new skin on his neck, and pin feathers were growing in. I cannot imagine him being able to survive in that condition for all those weeks, but somehow, he managed to heal up, and return home. I wish there was a way that I could have found out how it happened, and how he survived, and regained strength to return home. Pigeons are just amazing creatures. Their homing instinct and love for home is so strong, that it breaks my heart to think of what was going thru his head all that time. That is why, when you raise racing pigeons, you should treat them with respect, because we have no clue as to all the obstacles they encounter, and what they go thru a lot to get home to us.  
Yours in the sport,
Mary Bajer
HighLow Lofts
North Brunswick, NJ 
A New Lease of Life by Vic Compton.

Once upon a time, here in England, I was involved in sport. I was a weight lifter, played cricket and helped instruct the local children in both this game and football. I played rugby sevens at 40 years of age and volleyball at 50. I loved my sport then came a heart attack and I was devastatedthat was it, no more sport, no more instructing life was over as far as I was concerned. I pulled through well but there was a big gap in my life. Then in 1990 a friend, Barbara, later to become my wife, suggested pigeons, the guy next door raced them why didn't I? I had kept cage birds and rabbits for exhibition, but they were pretty static pursuits and could never replace involvement in sport.
"Pigeons will be like kids," said Barbara, tired of seeing a once very active guy so depressed, " the feeding and training to get them fit. They will be your team."

Up went a loft that consisted of two 8 foot x 6 foot sheds set in an 'L' shape to fit the corner of the garden. My neighbour would have started me off but I felt when the race time actually came we would be racing identical pigeons. The first eight I bought from a friend quite cheaply. They were a mixture of breeds, two mealy Busschaert cocks we called Dopey and Bros bred off two famous birds called Ginny and Puffnot very inspiring names. The other one I remember was a big Cattrysse we called Bomb. You could hear him land from the end of the garden. By this time I was reading old yearbooks and soon became fascinated with pedigrees. I had been a widower for three years, was still working full time in the police force and with children all grown. If I was ever going to be able afford good pigeons, now was the time. I attended a sale at a local pub and in the wandering around the pens prior to the auction, had set my heart on a nest pair of Gay Pieds. The name Ko Nipius sounded rather exotic/. The sale started and I eventually, after some hard competition returned home with these two whose brother from a previous had won out of Barcelona.
I put it around that I was interested in Ko Nipius and soon had a phone cal about a guy locally who was selling a stock pair off PJ Lofts, these I picked up quite reasonably. Among the cheap birds off my friend was a pigeon whose parents carried the ER ring of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth whom, through her loft manager, races pigeons in Norfolk. We called this one 'Royal' off Delmont Jurion blood; he was to win us our first cards.

Barbara was right, I could do things my way...get the feed right, train them locally before stretching them out down the line. It took time for me to pluck up courage to let my birds out, some would sit on house roofs several gardens away, others wouldn't come in at dusk and you had visions of owls and night prowling cats devouring them. I was never so nervous as the first day I took my young birds two miles from home, liberated them and watch them fly in completely the wrong direction. What can you do? They are up there with you down here, so much for coaching. I need not have worried as they were all home before me. Gradually they went further down the line they would eventually race from, eventually out to 40-50 miles and still they came home. I learned early that two essentials should be with you at all times, a compass and a map of the training area. No roads, especially England, are straight and you can easily lose a directional sense. By laying the map in line with the nearest road at the tossing point, then laying the compass on it, one can easily see which way the birds should be heading.
Pick a regular spot about 25 miles from home and train here several times a week. This gets them totally confident over those last miles home and some say they don't start racing until the last twenty miles. At these points, especially with young birds, you can watch them mill about in the sky, going over and over the spot you are standing before deciding on a direction. Later when the pigeons become accustomed to the area the kit up close, one or two circuits and then they beautiful feeling as the head for home like rockets.
What could be more pleasurable than driving through the spring countryside, pigeons in the back, maybe your dog and nowadays with me, a young daughter.
So you want to start with pigeons? Go for it, don't get too complicated and take conflicting advice. Find a routine, stick to it and remember the best way of doing things is your way.

Lastly, think about siting the loft, don't worry about direction but let the loft fit into the garden, not dominate it, preferably so the shadow cast is away from your plot. You will still want barbecues to entertain non-pigeon friends and family and a flower garden. Make the area a site that the pigeons will want to return home to.

I have a story to tell.  We have a hen that's a real sweet gal.  Nice and tame and a real good mother.  One of my favorite brood hens.  A while back she got shot, or at least that is what we think happened.  She was wounded quite bad but with our nursing did pull through.  The only trouble is now she can't fly.   But that's not the story.  A while back Linda heard a plea from a man needing a hen for his pet pigeon.  As Paul Harvey would say, "And now the Rest of The Story"..  One day Marc Carroll found a pigeon on the side of the road.  It had been hit by a car and was in pretty bad shape.  One of his wings had been totally ripped off and he was almost dead. He took the pigeon, a cock, home and over several days nursed him back to health.  At first Marc took "Mr. Cock" every where he went, so he could always keep an eye on him.  "Mr. Cock" recovered fully and now lives in the house with Marc and his wife Jan.  He can't fly of course but out side of that gets around quite well.  Marc gives "Mr. Cock" a bath every week and even dries him with the hair dryer, much to "Mr. Cock's" pleasure.  Boy talk about a spoiled bird.  "Mr. Cock has a large pen inside the house and an aviary that abuts the dinning room window so Marc can open the window for "Mr. Cock" to get fresh air.  Anyway "Mr. Cock" has been lonely and Linda read Marc's pleas for a hen for him and felt our injured hen would be a perfect match.  So next Monday much to Marc's pleasure and "Mr. Cock's" excitement our hen is going to Wichita Kansas to be with "Mr. Cock".  I wish the world was all like Marc & Jan.  There would be no wars and a lot of happy "Blow Dried" pigeons.
Steve Joneli